Budapest, 3 April, 2022 - The European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations (ENEMO) – “Technical aspects of the elections, including election day proper, were generally well managed, though numerous issues in the pre-election day period, including shortcomings and gaps in the legal framework, tilted the playing field in favor of the ruling coalition. Allegations of improper voter influence, including voter intimidation and vote buying also marred the election campaign. The legal framework necessitates an overhaul, as to address observed issues and improve conditions for holding democratic elections” said Head of the Mission, Dritan Taulla.
On Election Day, PSCs and LEOs managed the voting and counting procedures efficiently, with some minor procedural deviations that, seemingly, did not negatively affect the legitimacy of the process and results. The NEO provided information on the voter turnout and preliminary election results online, which contributed to an increased transparency of the process.
As Deputy Head of Mission presented “The legal framework contains adequate regulations concerning different aspects of elections; however, some of the crucial aspects are not precisely and sufficiently regulated. This damages the transparency of elections, and fails to ensure effective prevention of violations, and a level playing field. Legislative shortcomings are primarily related to campaign financing and misuse of state resources. It is worth noting that regulations concerning such issues as freedom of media and expression, civil society organizations, judiciary, and access to information have deteriorated over the years, thus also having a negative impact on the election environment”.
There are seven single-member constituencies with a deviation of more than 20 percent in the average number of voters. This violates the equality of vote principle and is at odds with international best practice and domestic legal regulations. The increased number of single-member constituencies in which political parties have to nominate candidates in order to compete in proportional elections creates unjustified barriers for political parties to participate in elections.
“In general, EMBs met the legal deadlines and managed the process efficiently. They were open to international observers and media, and acted transparently. However, as many ENEMO interlocutors and media reported, the NEO did not fully control the process of voting by post, as at least in Serbia and Romania, the delivery of ballot packages has not always been conducted in accordance with the law, by respective Postal Offices” said Election Administration Analyst Elidon Lamani.
Overall, there is trust in the accuracy of the voters lists. The NEO published weekly data regarding voter registration in an open format, which contributed to increasing transparency. However, there are loopholes in the Act of Election Procedures regarding postal voting, while the lack of automatic removal of data of deceased people from abroad from the postal voter registry still remains a concern. The principle of equal suffrage has been challenged, as voters abroad underwent differentiated voting procedures, related to possession of an in-country address.
According to Political and Campaign Analyst Dmytro Tuzhanskyi “The campaign was mostly characterized by lack of constructive discussions, failing to provide the public with meaningful information, as well as deep polarization. Allegations of pressure and intimidation of voters, especially public servants and vulnerable groups, vote-buying and other forms of control of the will of voters also marred the campaign. The Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February heavily influenced the campaign narrative, shifting the focus from domestic matters to geopolitical and security topics. Systematic misuse of administrative resources, including an overlap between the Government’s and ruling parties’ messaging, created an unlevel playing field”.
Gaps and shortcomings in the legislation on party and campaign finance impacted the elections in terms of campaign spending transparency. The lack of effective legal oversight and regulations of third-party campaigning funds creates grounds for circumventing campaign finance rules, thus damaging transparency. ENEMO observed an imbalance in campaign resources in favor of the ruling alliance, which contradicts international standards, as well as goes against the principle of “equal opportunities”, determined by the Hungarian legislation.
As Media Analyst, Milica Zrnovic said “Equal and impartial media treatment was not sufficiently ensured for all contestants, and neither were the principles of fairness, balance, and impartiality in the coverage of election campaigns. Unbalanced and one-sided reporting was in particular visible at the regional and local level. Media articles about elections, contestants and their programs, in some cases, lacked analytical and investigative reporting which, altogether, may have limited voters' access to quality information”.
Social media played an important role in these elections. Online campaigning was characterized by large amounts of money spent on political ads, engagement of third parties in campaigning, as well as presence of fake profiles aimed at confusing and deceiving users and attacking political opponents.
Women are generally underrepresented in politics and the legislative body of Hungary. There was a low number of women candidates registered for Parliamentary elections. Women were not widely visible and engaged in the campaign. There are no legal mechanisms for promoting women participation in politics.
Domestic civil society organizations are not allowed to observe elections, which does not ensure a large-scale, non-partisan observation and limits voters’ access to impartial information and assessment of the electoral process. Civil society organizations critical towards the Government are often targets of hostile rhetoric that aims to discredit their work. These practices are shrinking the space for the work of civil society organizations.
Complaints and appeals can be filed only by those affected by the violation, which limits the possibility of filing complaints. Many complaints were rejected on formal grounds, which hinders the right to legal remedy and is at odds with international good practice. In general, adjudication of complaints, both by election management bodies and courts showed that legal regulations and the established practice, especially in cases related to misuse of administrative resources, are mostly ineffective and do not contribute to preventing violations.
ENEMO’s International Election Observation Mission for the 3 April 2022 Parliamentary Elections in Hungary is financially supported by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The content of the document is the sole responsibility of ENEMO and does not necessarily represent the position of the donor.